Scott Haynes, College Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The 2001 season saw the return of the
Miami Hurricanes to the pinnacle of the college football world, as Larry
Coker's debut campaign ended with a thorough whipping of Nebraska in the Rose
Bowl, capping off a perfect season with the team's fifth national
Going 12-0 last season certainly wasn't easy, as the team was taken to the
limit by conference foes Boston College (18-7) and Virginia Tech (26-24), but
when all was said and done, the Hurricanes ran the table, highlighted by a
37-14 pasting of Nebraska in Pasadena.
Can the 2002 team stay the course? Can Coker avoid a sophomore slump as coach?
That remains to be seen, but don't count the Hurricanes out just yet.
Larry Coker's debut campaign ended with a thorough whipping of Nebraska in the 2002 Rose Bowl.
Yes, Miami detractors will point to the number of losses on both sides of the
football (only four starters returning on offense and six on defense), but
there is plenty of talent waiting in the wings to keep Miami in the national
title picture in 2002.
The offense has the most losses (in terms of numbers). The Hurricanes
certainly benefited from the nation's top offensive line in 2001 and perhaps
one of the top units in college football history. The play up front kept
Heisman candidate Ken Dorsey out of trouble, as the line allowed just four
sacks all season long, while paving the way for 5.3 yards per carry.
This unit will undoubtedly take a step back, as there is just no way to
replace All-Americans Bryant McKinnie (First-Team AA and Outland Trophy
winner), Joaquin Gonzalez (First-Team AA) and Martin Bibla (Third-Team AA).
Senior center Brett Romberg will run the revamped line from the pivot
position, while senior guard Sherko Haji-Rasouli returns from a knee injury
last season to help solidify things up front.
The ground game suffered some losses as well, as talented back Clinton Portis
moved onto the NFL, after rushing for over 1,300 yards (5.4 ypc) in 2001.
Further woes in the backfield surfaced when sophomore sensation Frank Gore
(9.1 ypc in 2001) tore his ACL in the spring. He was expected to make it back
early on this year, but a recent infection in the knee will keep him sidelined
through the middle of the season. That means, that sophomore Willis McGahee
will take the lion's share of the carriers. Last season, the 6-1, 220 pound
bruiser averaged 4.7 yards per carry in limited action (69 carries).
Ken Dorsey won't have unlimited time in the pocket this year, but it won't
matter, because he won't need it. The receiving corps could be one of the best
units in the country, with three of the team's top four pass catchers
returning this season. Sure, superb relief valve Jeremy Shockey took his act
to the NFL, but explosive downfield threats Andre Johnson (44 receptions, for
881 yards and 12 TDs in 2001), Kevin Beard (29 receptions, for 450 yards and
two TDs last year) and Ethenic Sands (26 receptions, for 385 yards and one TD
in 2001) will find the open seams in a defense, and rest assured, Dorsey will
deliver the ball on time. Last season, Dorsey completed nearly 60 percent of
his passes, for 3,014 yards and 26 TDs, compared to just 10 interceptions.
Those numbers should all increase this year (with the exception of the INTs).
Ken Dorsey completed nearly 60 percent of his passes, for 3,014 yards and 26 TDs.
While the offense will still be one of the most potent units in the country
this season, the defense may take a step back. Although that side of the ball
took less of a hit in terms of numbers, the losses might be more severe. The
Hurricanes had the advantage of the best secondary in the country and that in
and of itself made the whole defense better. Gone are first-round draft picks
Ed Reed, Phillip Buchanon and Mike Rumph -- losses that can simply not be
The good news is that the front seven will pick up the slack for an unproven
secondary this season. The defensive line is explosive and caught a break with
the return of defensive tackle William Joseph, who turned down the opportunity
to turn pro last season to return to Coral Gables for one more season. Joseph
is the complete package at 6-5, 300 pounds and is coming off a 10-sack
campaign in 2001, en route to All-American honors (Third-Team). Joining him in
the trenches will be seniors Jerome McDougle (an amazing 48 QB hurries in
2001), Jamaal Green (six sacks in 2001) and Matt Walters (67 tackles, three
sacks in 2001), as well as former starter Cornelius Green, who missed 10 games
last year. Also in the mix is sophomore sensation Vince Wilfork (6-2, 350),
who reminds a lot of Miami faithful of Warren Sapp.
The linebacking unit will be anchored by last season's top tackler
Jonathan Vilma (87 tackles in 2001) and fellow junior D.J. Williams (47
tackles last year).
Looking at the schedule, the defending champions catch a break in that they
get tough opponents like Florida State, Boston College and Virginia Tech all
in the friendly confines of the Orange Bowl. The 'Canes will get a tough test
in early September, as they must travel to Gainesville to take on the Gators,
but Florida will still be trying to find its feet under new head coach Ron
Zook and that should give Miami an advantage there.
The game on the schedule that is the one circled as the toughest of the year
is November 9th's clash with Tennessee in Knoxville. It's refreshing to see
two top programs in the midst of conference play take time out to play a
national title type game in the middle of the season, but both teams will put
a lot at risk in that contest.
The Hurricanes certainly had things break right for them in 2001, as the team
posted that elusive perfect season.
While repeating that campaign might be more than should be expected, the
weather in the Sunshine State could very well be inclement again in 2002.
Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org.